During the Student Mentored Research Conference, students, faculty, and university staff listened to BYU sociology professor Mikaela Dufur speak on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, embracing opportunities with gratitude, and opening doors and opportunities for others along the way. As we share an excerpt from Dufur’s speech, we invite you to think about the next semester, job, or phase of your life and how you can appreciate opportunities and open a door for someone else in the process.
It is so exciting to see the products of your imagination and your science [at the Student Mentored Research Conference]. Mentored research at BYU has opened new doors for you by giving you skills, practice demonstrating them, and evidence of your abilities. You are ready to meet every new challenge and to try, fail, try, fail, and try again until you conquer them, just as you have every time a model refused to converge or an experiment fell apart.
As we celebrate your present accomplishments, I invite you to think about your future. Now that you and your mentors have created science, what’s the next step?
To outline your future, let’s return to the past. An enduring memory from September 11, 2001, is sitting on the ratty couch I’d dragged from graduate school, glued to the news. I remember one family of adult children showing a flyer to the camera while looking for their father. The flyer read, “Please come home—we have peanut butter cups for you.” I always wondered what happened to the peanut butter cup dad and hoped he made it home to his family. Part of my annual observance of September 11 is to have and to share peanut butter cups, but Googling “9/11 Peanut Butter Cup Man” never brought up useful results.
On September 11, 2017, I watched the news while brushing my teeth. By some small miracle, my morning routine aligned with a recitation of names of those lost. I turned to the TV just as family members finished reading names and paused to share memories of their own father. They closed by sharing that a recently born grandchild was named Reese after their father’s favorite candy. Peanut butter cup dad had not made it home after all.
This was painful—I’d convinced myself a happy, chocolate reunion had taken place—but now I was armed with a name. Peanut butter cup dad was Ronald Fazio, and Google could find him. Mr. Fazio had nearly made it to safety, but stopped to hold the door for his coworkers. In those awful moments, he chose to hold the door for others to make sure they would reach safety. Mr. Fazio’s family started the Hold the Door Foundation in his memory, devoted to helping people move through tragedy.
What does this have to do with your future? Someone held the door for you, through mentoring, guiding, and teaching you. Now that you’ve moved through the door and are sprinting into your exciting lives, don’t forget to hold the door for someone else. I especially urge you to look around for people who tend to be left behind, such as women in STEM fields, people of color, and disabled people, and not only hold the door for them, but shout to let them know you’re there. Marry the technical skills you learned through mentored research to a determination to hold the door by reaching out, teaching, and mourning with those who mourn.
For more information on the 2018 Student Mentored Research Conference, read our recent blog post.